Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The 21st Century Secular Inquisition

Secularists often point to the medieval Inquisition as the icon of what they believe religion, particularly Catholicism, to be––an interrogatory trial to force individuals to adhere to doctrines. For example, appearing in the Huffington Post, author Cullen Murphy condemns the Inquistion thusly: "The Inquisition was based on intolerance and moral certainty. It tried to enforce a particular view..." Even the recent "Cosmos" 'documentary' claims a monk of the Middle Ages opposed to Church doctrine fell into "the clutches of the thought police."

Interestingly enough, even before the medieval Inquisition period, the Church made statements such as:
[A Christian evangelizing a brother] does not drag him and force him, but leaves him his own master. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans, ca 390 A.D.)

The Lord is a just judge and orders no one unwillingly, or under compulsion, to come under the yoke of the Catholic faith. (Albert of Aix, account of the 1st Crusade, ca 1120 A.D.)
And even in the modern period:
It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will. (Dignitatis Humanae #10, Second Vatican Council, 1965 (EDIT to add quote 4/2/2018)) 
It would certainly be an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with a total respect for the free options which it presents -- "without coercion, or dishonorable or unworthy pressure" -- far from being an attack on religious liberty is fully to respect that liberty, which is offered the choice of a way that even non-believers consider noble and uplifting. (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1975)

Any approach to dialogue such as coercion or improper enticement that fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of the partners in that dialogue has no place in Christian evangelization. (Pope Benedict XVI, Doctrinal Note On Some Aspects Of Evangelization)
Pope John Paul II even apologized for improprieties during the Inquisition, insofar as they were historically accurate. He wrote:
The prayer I then addressed to God contains the reasons for the petition for forgiveness, which is valid both for the dramas linked to the Inquisition as well as for the wounds they have caused in the memory. (Pope John Paul II, John Paul II Letter on Inquisition Symposium, 2004)
Suffice it to say, in spite of any medieval improprieties, along with secular critics of the Inquisition, even the Church acknowledges the right of persons to be free of coercion.

Make no mistake, the Church communicates tangible, identifiable doctrines as organized, for example, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is not a secret that the Church teaches, for example, that God is Trinity (CCC#232ff), Mary is ever-virgin (CCC#510), or that the Eucharist is sacramentally and truly Christ's body (CCC#1374). It is also not a secret that the Church has clear positions on hot-button issues of the day, such as that fornication is sinful (CCC#2353) or that abortion is the taking of a human life (CCC#2271). Since these are all matters of "faith or morals," they are recognized by the Church as truths, which means they cannot change. Any penalty, such as automatic excommunication, incurred by a member of the faithful for rejecting one of these teachings, is rooted in the fact that the Church's teachings are identifiable, and that Catholic Christianity posits certain beliefs for the faithful to hold.

In other words, Catholicism is a religion with certain beliefs. One cannot be a Catholic while obstinately rejecting dogmatic beliefs. Today, and through most of history, the only penalty for rejecting Catholicism was to cease to be Catholic. Makes sense, no? Consider an analogy. If I insist society should have an organized government, I can't really call myself an anarchist.

Many critics of the Church have expressed disapproval that the Church will not reverse some of her teachings. That brings us to the crux of this essay. Secularists who decry the Church for adhering to religious beliefs are themselves rigidly adhered to beliefs that are, practically speaking, "religious." However, unlike with the Church, such believers do not admit to holding religious beliefs. And the punishments for not adhering to such beliefs have proven to be quite severe in this 21st Century Inquisition for secular doctrine.

As we examine several modern examples, we can see that those who profess to be religion-free are themselves no less religious in the sense that they hold certain moral or faithful viewpoints just as a person who admits to religious beliefs. As much as many secularists cry for freedom from religious views or moral impositions, there really is no "neutral" religious or moral viewpoint. Often, when the State rejects one of the Church's teachings, it is not endorsing some "neutral" view that is nondiscriminatory to all beliefs. It is positing a particular view just as "religious" as the one it opposes.

Let's examine some of the secular doctrines and penalties in question.

The issue of contraception was largely covered here on TCV in posts tagged with HHS Mandate. That mandate by the U.S. federal government is iconic of the 21st Century Inquisition with regard to contraception. In its earliest form, the fed threatened institutions that did not provide in their health care plans coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs with the penalty of $2,000 per employee. This demand for businesses to embrace the secular doctrine suffered a narrow loss in the Supreme Court during the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case in 2014. Despite this, the mandate retains potentiality in other legislative forms and religious entities continue to spar for their religious freedom. Other religious entities, such as Priests for Life and Little Sisters of the Poor, have since suffered legal battles as well. (It it also worth noting, Catholic theology recognizes that taking a contraceptive drug for actual medical purposes and not as a contraceptive can be licit––thus the matter is not medical, but related to persons who want to live a lifestyle that causes their otherwise healthy and fertile bodies to malfunction.)

Next case. In 2011, the U.S. federal government defunded the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, which provides refuge for victims of human trafficking. At that time, U.S. Archbishop Timothy Dolan revealed that the fed had insisted that they provide a "full range of reproductive services," meaning contraceptives or abortions. The Bishops did not comply with the Inquisition's demand. The charity was subsequently defunded.

Next case. This past February 2015 saw the California legislature initiate an "investigation," (i.e. an "Inquisition") against the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. The diocese recently included a "morality clause" in hiring practices which seeks to hire staff that will support Church teaching. The State demands that the Archdiocese approve the hiring of educators who reject Church teaching and embrace the doctrines of the Inquisition instead, including abortion, contraception and gay "marriage." The lawmakers defended their imposition by declaring that the Archdiocese's desire to hire personnel that will not thwart Church teaching is "in stark contrast to the values that define the Bay Area and it’s history." Apparently, the Bay Area's "values" include having the Church submit to the doctrines of the State. The legislators also called the Church's attempt to hire personnel who will not thwart Church teaching as "divisive." Apparently, the legislators believe "unity" is best achieved when others submit to their Inquisition. Archbishop Cordileone responded to the State. His statement included the correction of erroneous propaganda, such as "the falsehood that the morality clauses apply to the teachers’ private life." Then, after providing hypothetical scenarios clarifying the Church's position, the Archbishop ironically concluded his response letter to the legislators with, "I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask the same respect from you." One may be accurate to suppose that if the Church had told a politician that the politician must hire only staff that supports Church teaching, the Church would have been told some such or other about "separation of Church and State" or that the Church should not conduct an Inquisition demanding others embrace their doctrines. The penalties in this case, so far, have included political strong-arming and can be expected to include whatever demands are made by the State after the "investigtion," i.e. Inquisition.

Next case. In 2011, a British couple, Eunice and Owen Johns, were forbidden by a court from adopting children because they would not formally teach their children that homosexual behavior is good. The judges in question made no attempt to disguise their decision as anti-Christian. The judges stated:
It is important to realize that reliance upon religious belief, however conscientious the belief and however ancient and respectable the religion, can never of itself immunize the believer from the reach of the secular law.
Let us consider this statement from several angles. First of all, it is not only religious persons who do not condone homosexual behavior, thus the court's decision to reject the view simply because it is religious is faulty, not to mention bigoted. Second, the teaching not to kill is quite explicit in Christianity, Judaism, and other religions, yet the state does not reject this notion on the grounds that it is native to religion. Third, there is no "secular law" forbidding Christians to raise children. Fourth, the judge's opinion contradicts itself, because, as we are noting in this essay, a view such as endorsement of homosexual behavior, is itself equal to a religious view. They did not impose a neutral view. Their doctrine says that Eunice and Owen Johns would be harmful to children. For this, the judges were not able to substantiate cause. They gratuitously asserted that Christians are not suitable parents. The Inquisition merely lowered its gavel on the Christian and said, "Either endorse our doctrine, or pay the penalty of childlessness."

Next is a series of related cases. The United States recently has seen a barrage of Inquisition incidents against business owners. First, let's recall one of the sales pitches for gay "marriage." Last year, one of the gay "marriages" across the USA include Lake County, Indiana's Michelle Davies and her partner. Regarding her "marriage," Davies declared, "It doesn't affect anyone but us." In February, Nickson Chong, a writer for SMU's Daily Campus, chastised Judge Roy Moore for suspending gay "marriage" licenses prior to the Supreme Court's engagement of the subject. Chong declared: "Their love and marriage doesn’t affect you in the slightest way." He concluded with the universal order: "And if you still remain steadfast in your arrogant hate for same-sex marriage, then don’t get one."

Unfortunately, the idea that gay "marriage" affects no one but the couple in question is not true. First, the lexical definition of the term "marriage" has been amputated from any recognizable notion of sexual complementarity and fertility which is plainly native to the two genders. It requires no religious person to perceive this. Placing the onus of defining truth on the legal system is not a sound apologetic. This attitude toward malleability of truth is the same tradition in America that perceived blacks as 0/5 of a person on one day, 3/5 of a person on another, and 5/5 of a person on yet another. It attaches institutional definitions to cultural whims and fads. The movement is built on as shaky a ground as the emotional propaganda at its base. A reasoned apologetic related to nature, the human condition, and the concept of marriage is lacking.

Second, there are already multiple legal victims of the gay "marriage" movement, about which we were sold that no one would be affected beyond the couple. This is where the Secular Inquisition returns to impose its doctrines.

In 2014, Ireland's Ashers Baking Company, owned by a Christian couple, declined to bake a cake inscribed with "Support Gay Marriage." The "Equality Commission for Northern Ireland" then spearheaded the Inquisition against this couple and demanded they embrace the Inquisition's doctrine or face legal and financial consequences.

Going back to 2006, Christian photographer Elane Photographers in New Mexico declined to photograph a same-sex "wedding." New Mexico courts have since declared that the owners must subordinate their views to the State's doctrines. Hence, this Inquisition demands that the owners cooperate with a gay ceremony. Their failure to do so has earned them over $7,000 in fines from the State, as well as any legal costs and difficulties that continue to this day.

Stories like these two are common in recent years. The State and its accomplices attempt to treat this as an "equality" issue. You see the Orwellian term "equality" invoked in these Inquisitions regularly. And so, a person may ask him or herself, "Isn't this like not serving someone because of race? And thus a matter of equal treatment?"

The answer is no. Two other cases illustrate this clearer.

In February 2015, the owners of the 111 Cakery in Indiana closed shop. In 2014, they had declined to bake a cake for a gay "wedding." Subsequently, they endured a barrage of social media protests, as well as an in-person call for boycott, accusing them of "hate," "homophobia," and the like. However, the McGath's explained on their own social media page: "[T]his week we told a man that requested a cake for a same-sex ceremony that it was against our policy, but we would be happy to help him with anything else."

Keep that in mind as we look at our second case.

Recently, the State of Washington ruled against florist Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers. In 2013, she declined to make floral arrangements for the gay "wedding" of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. In February 2015, the State of Washington declared her guilty of discrimination. As a courtesy, this Inquisition offered to drop the case against her if she paid $2,001 in fines and also embraced their doctrine by participating in gay "weddings." Stutzman responded, saying her morality was not for sale and compared the "deal" to Judas betraying Christ for 30 pieces of silver. But what is key in understanding this case, is that Stutzman knew Ingersoll was gay. And Stutzman had served Ingersoll for almost ten years prior to him asking for her to participate in his wedding.

You see in the previous two examples, there was no discrimination based on the sexual orientation of the customer. Both vendors willed to serve those customers, the latter having actually done so for almost a decade. This issue is not comparable to segregation, in which a business would simply not serve a person of color. No, customers like Ingersoll were served without incident for years. The trigger in these cases was asking a person who does not believe a gay "wedding" is moral to be a willing participant in that ceremony. If a heterosexual customer had entered their businesses and tried to hire them to serve the same gay "wedding," the results would have been the same. The business owners would have refused. The sexual orientation of the customer was not a determining factor in refusing the business.

The Inquisition has thus committed the fallacy of equivocation in their verdicts, confusing a characteristic of a person with a controversial activity. A comparable analogy would be if a klansman demanded a black baker make a cake for a Klan rally, or if an animal rights photographer was demanded to film a pig slaughter. The offending request is not rooted in some arbitrary characteristic of the customer, but in the nature of the activity the customer is attempting to have the business cooperate.

The bottom line in these "wedding" cases is that the powers-that-be exhibit all the qualities of an Inquisition. They force a religious doctrine on the victim, in these cases business owners. If the victim will not embrace the doctrine, the penalty is inflicted.

Next case. Let's look at this Inquisition from one last angle.

In March 2014, a number of pro-life students at the University of California-Santa Barbara held pro-life signage. In a stroke of irony, they were standing in the campus "free speech zone." UCSB Associate Professor of Feminist Studies Mireille Miller-Young took offense at one of the signs. She proceeded to accost the students and steal the sign. When the students followed her, she attacked a 16 year old female, drawing blood from the young lady. At one point, Miller-Young told her, "I may be a thief, but you're a terrorist." Miller-Young eventually plead no contest to assault and, by a court, was assigned probation, community service, and anger management. What was the University's response through all this? In response to the professor's attack, UCSB Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael D. Young circulated a letter to students. In the letter, he places full attention on the pro-life students, saying they are "evangelical types," "self-proclaimed prophets, and provocateurs," "anti-abortion crusaders,"  "proselytizers hawking intolerance in the name of religious belief," and "outsiders coming into our midst." There actually is no criticism of Miller-Young in the letter. In fact, she's not mentioned at all. To this day, there has apparently been no sanction on this professor who robbed a student, physically assaulted her, and destroyed the stolen goods to boot. But, as the dean's bombastic and doctrinal letter reveals, the pro-life student is the enemy at UCSB. The dean associates their views with "outsiders." In this case, the violent professor had embraced the Inquisition's doctrines. She fought heretics of the Inquisition. And so the Inquisition's penalty is avoided.

The crux of this essay is to point out the religious quality of the State's and its allies' culture views. These views are not neutral, but doctrinal and, practically speaking, religious. Just because the State has not publicly declared they are imposing a State religion does not mean it has not practiced as much in the form of imposing specific doctrines. And we are seeing before our very eyes the 21st Century Inquisition against anyone with a different belief.

More resources and information on contraception: "Birth Control"
EWTN "What the the Church teach about birth control?"
EWTN "Contraception: What's allowed?"
Jimmy Akin "NFP vs. Contraception"
Catholic Culture "The Contraception Misconception"
Catholics, Contraception, and Feminisms?
Humana Vitae
The Catholic Voyager: Myths about Church teaching on contraception and the religious liberty at stake
USCCB Natural Family Planning (NFP) resources 

More resources and information on abortion: "Abortion"
The Catholic Voyager: Notre Dame professor's flawed argument for abortion
Catholic News Agency Abortion Resources
Local resources for pregnant mothers include such organizations as Waterleaf Women's Center in Illinois or Elizabeth's New Life Center in Ohio. One can also do a web search for pro-life pregnancy centers in their local area. Such organizations can help with finances, adoption, and more.

More resources and information on Gay "Marriage": "How to Make the Case for Marriage (Using Non-religious Language)"
The Catholic Voyager: Replies to gay marriage arguments 1
The Catholic Voyager: Replies to gay marriage arguments 2
An atheist identifies "the central problem with the gay marriage agenda"
Christian Anthropology And Homosexuality
Unintended Consequences: The Flaws in “It Doesn’t Affect Anyone But Us” Argument in Favor of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage by Marianne M. Jennings, J.D. 

More resources and information on myths of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages:
Inquisition by Dr. James Hitchcock "Inquisition" more articles
Timewatch - The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition (BBC 1994)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christianity is a religion

Christianity is a religion. And Christians should not shy away from that monicker.

I've read or heard many times the opinion of Christians who insist that "Christianity is not a religion." Often the addendum, "It's a relationship" is joined to the base claim. However, this is an improper use of the term religion.

For example, the following quotation by Dave Daubenmire of Pass the Salt Ministries is a decent summary of why some Christians are repelled by the label "religion." In a December 9, 2010 article, he wrote:
Jesus hated religion. It was the “religious” folks that He tried to free us from. 'But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.'

Read Mathew 23 to understand better what He had to say to “religious” leaders. He stated it better than I can.

Look. Christianity is not a religion, it is not “going to church”, it is not a set of rules and regulations after which you pattern your life...
He goes on to claim Christianity is living a life in Christ---which is correct. But this sentiment is in error to exclude from Christianity attendance at church, following prescriptions of the Church, and that Jesus hated religion.

Another example from reads:
Christianity is not really a religion; it is a relationship with God. It is trusting in Jesus and what He did on the cross for you (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), not on what you can do for yourself (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christianity is not about ornate buildings, flamboyant preachers, or traditional rituals. Christianity is about truly accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Those who agree with the above examples make the following apparent deduction:
  1. As Scripture testifies, many regulations were followed in the religion of Judaism.
  2. Jesus chastised hypocrites within the Jewish leadership.
  3. Scripture also says man cannot save himself, but needs God.
  4. Therefore Jesus hates religion.
You see how the conclusion is fallacious on its face.

Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate that the term religion is certainly appropriate for Christianity, is that the Bible describes what constitutes "true religion" versus a false religion.
James 1:26-27 If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
In short, this is describing the principle of loving one's neighbor and living a moral life. And the apostle James labels such a life as "pure religion." Therefore, it is not Biblically proper to exclude any sense of the term religion when describing Christianity. And as we will see, ritual and regulations facilitate our walk with Christ.

Next, let's look closer at the beginning of Matthew 23, which is mentioned above:
Matthew 23:1-3 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice."
Even though Jesus proceeds to expose hypocrisy among the Pharisees, He still told the audience to follow what they prescribe, for they were the true leaders, sitting on Moses' seat. This can hardly be classified as the command of someone who hated the regulations of all religion, much less the Jewish faith.

Take another example of Jesus criticizing hypocrites:
Matthew 6:16-18 And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
We see a number of pertinent truths in this passage. Jesus criticizes the fasting of hypocrites, but does not condemn proper fasting. This is just like James above, who contrasts true religion with false religion. The existence of a false practice does not overtake the legitimacy of a true practice. Further, the very subject at hand was what the above critics would call a "religious" ritual or regulation: fasting. Jesus even prescribes proper rules for fasting, which include maintaining an appearance to disguise one's fast.

Jesus also partook in Jewish ritual, especially at the Jewish Passover feast. In doing so, He did not reject ritual. Rather, He taught through the significance of the ritual. Through the imagery and actions in the feast He communicated divine truths, such as His own fulfillment as Passover lamb or the partaking in the unleavened bread (1 Cor. 5:7) or wine as signposts to His own sacrifice.

Paul continued to participate in the fulfillment of that ritual by partaking in the bread and wine (1 Cor. 10:16) according to Christ's command (e.g. Luke 22:19-20). Scripture also testifies to the faithful following the apostles' teaching to participate in the "breaking of the bread and the prayers" as well as attending the temple daily (Acts 2:42-46). In doing so, were Paul and the other apostles of Christ teaching Christians to participate in what the above critics would disapprovingly call "religious" practices? Yes, they are.

In the Catholic and Orthodox liturgies, the Eucharist, which is the consecrated bread and wine, is offered through the priest. This offering is believed to be the same offering as Christ's sacrifice on Calvary, and thus a true, pure offering (cf. John 6:25-69, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 10:16-18, 1 Cor. 11:23-29, etc.). This "ritual" is in harmony with the prophet Malachi who speaks of a day when incense and a pure offering (singular in Hebrew) is offered in all places (plural) (Mal. 1:11). The book of Hebrews (9:23) speaks of the OT sacrifices fulfilled in better "sacrifices" (plural in Greek).1 Yet since Christ's sacrifice is one and unique, how can this be? Because it can be seen in the plural via the one sacrifice's continual re-presentation in the Eucharist in all places as the prophet Malachi foretold. Thus, participating in the "ritual" of the liturgy most profoundly fulfills the call of Scripture.

Consider other "religious" regulations or prescriptions encouraged or commanded in the New Testament:
  • The gesture of imposing hands confers the Spirit in appointing Church leaders (cf. Acts 6:6, Acts 8:18, Acts 19:6, 1 Tim. 4:14, 2 Tim. 1:6, etc...).
  • Elders are to anoint the sick with oil, and sins are to be confessed (Jam. 5:14-15).
  • In Paul's time, one of the regulations was the length of a woman's hair and her head covering, and men were not to cover their heads (1 Cor. 11:1-16).
  • The very reading of Scripture in Church (Col. 4:16, 1 Thes. 5:27) is a continuation of Jewish practice (Acts 15:21)!
  • The book of Revelation is fraught with ritualistic and liturgical imagery such as the use of incense and harps (Rev. 5:8), religious chants (Rev. 4:8), and lamps and robing (Rev. 1:13). These all parallel practices in ancient Judaism, which the modern critics in question claim are the example of "religion" Jesus despised. On this last bullet, a critic may say, "But this is the book of Revelation. These are all just symbols. Using those things for real is empty religion." Yet, where do Jesus or His apostles use condemned activities as symbols for proper form?
These are just a few examples demonstrating that ritual or regulatory norms are in no way contrary to Scripture or a Christian life. Partaking in ritual or religious regulations are not opposed to, but are rather in concert with living a life in Christ. Blanket rejection of "religious" practices is Biblically unfounded. It is when ritual or gestures become empty or false that one strays from their proper purposes. Therefore, true rituals or practices should be embraced by all Christians as God's vehicles to teach or operate as seen above.

1For a deeper treatment of the language in Hebrews 9:23, see Not By Bread Alone by Robert Sungenis, page 81.